Lucille Sider on spiritual resiliency: Knitting lives together

This knitting image is shared courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. The weekly series of columns so far:

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Knitting Lives Together

By LUCILLE SIDER
Author and Contributing Columnist

When I moved back to Chicago in 2015 to be near Frank, a friend of 40 years, the first people he introduced me to were David and Elly. David, like Frank, was a retired Lutheran pastor. Elly was a retired cancer specialist—both brilliant people. But the most endearing and intriguing thing about Elly was that she always—and I mean always—was knitting.

While the four of us would easily lose ourselves discussing the fine points of theology or psychology after dinner, Elly would busy her hands knitting sweaters, hats or gloves. And those were just the tip of the iceberg.

One day, I noticed that the beautiful blue and white socks she was wearing were of her own creation—and I became enchanted with the idea that I, too, could learn to knit socks. Socks, unlike scarves or sweaters, required skill beyond what I thought was my capacity for this craft.

I shyly asked her to teach me.

She smiled in return. “I’d love to teach you.”

The next day, I was invited her to my apartment for the first lesson. I was excited because I knew I would love it, and already I was imagining making socks for my son. I had done some simple knitting as a teenager—mainly scarves—so I knew a bit about the two main stitches, knit and purl. For each of them, you simply loop the yarn through the adjacent stitch below. In a knit stitch, you thread the tip of the needle through the right of the stitch below—and for a purl, you bring it back to the left.

But before I could knit and purl, I had to learn the first step in knitting, which was “casting on” stitches. This process requires two needles, which you twist around each other, sneaking in the yarn so it becomes lodged on just one of the needles. For a woman’s pair of socks, it takes about 48 stitches. For a man’s, about 64. These stitches then become the circumference and cuff of the sock. It takes at least 3,000 stitches for the cuff and leg and another 4,000 for the rest of the sock.

YES, 7,000 stitches for one sock!

For knitting socks, it takes five needles, which can be a little tricky. The needles are pointed at each end and are about 7 inches long. To watch someone manipulate these five needles looks quite complicated. But when you get into the swing of it—the movements are smooth and sweet.

As I labored through this process, Elly and I sat side by side on the sofa, which comforted me. When I made a mistake, she helped me correct the problem in a way that never made me feel stupid or wrong. As someone who is prone to feeling stupid, this was significant.

After about 100 stitches of knit two, purl two, a lovely multicolor pattern started to form. This pattern naturally pulls the stitches close together so the sock fits snugly around the leg. After 30 to 40 hours of labor, I finally removed the needles holding the stitches apart and beheld my first pair of completed socks. Slipping on that freshly knit pair of socks was heavenly. They were so soft, so warm and so pretty!

I left them on all day.

But I soon learned that it wasn’t just the process of making the sock that was such fun. The fun began with a trip to the yarn store to select from among hundreds of kinds of yarn! At least 50 of these were sock yarn, which is thinner than yarn made for sweaters and scarves. At first, I felt overwhelmed about all those choices. But then, I noticed that half of those choices were some variation of my favorite colors: pink, blue and purple.

In the beginning, I bought yarn for five pairs in these colors. After I gained some confidence and experience, I stretched my horizons and bought yarn that featured shades of grey, silver and brown. The yarn is only $8 to $10, so I can come home with six or eight balls of yarn without breaking my bank—even though I wanted to buy 10 or more.

Sometimes I bought yarn for a specific person. And as I made the socks, I imagined the feeling of giving them as a gift at the end of the process. I would tuck my love for that person into every stitch—it felt like a way of praying for that person. Knitting is meditation—and every pair is thousands of stitches of meditation!

Once I started gifting socks to friends and family, I found that absolutely everyone loves a pair of home-knit socks. I grew to love the ecstatic response of “You made these?” Sometimes, I almost felt like I had to defend myself and convince them that I am indeed capable of this. Of course, I would give credit to Elly and tell them about the way she came to my apartment, sat by me on the sofa and patiently helped me out of every mess that I had gotten myself into.

I also found that the more socks I made, the more questions people had.
How long does it take to make a pair of socks?
How much does the yarn cost?
Isn’t it hard to make socks?

Modeling Elly’s patience with me, I would always take the time to respond and show them the needles. While I had never precisely clocked the hours, I told them that I guessed it took between 25 and 35 hours. But I reassured them that while I made them, I was often watching TV or chatting with a friend. They were always impressed.

I always loved to watch the reactions of those who received my socks. One special reaction came on Christmas day in 2020, when I presented socks to my elderly friends Vinnie and Bob, who are 93 and 99 respectively. They held them lovingly, and later told me that they wore them all the time. Because Bob is in a wheelchair, and cannot wear shoes because of foot sores, he loves wearing his blue and green socks.

One time in church, I noticed he wasn’t wearing his own socks, but had Vinnie’s socks on. Her socks were pink, white and baby blue, colors that I picked out to reflect a more “girlish” scheme. But Bob didn’t mind—he said he couldn’t find his socks, so he just wore hers. I chuckled, and at that moment I decided to make more socks for him. At his 100th birthday party in April, I gave him a brand-new pair that featured black, silver and shiny white yarn. He just loves them.

Currently, I am knitting a pair of socks for Maria, a 13-year-old girl who is traveling with her 16-year-old brother from Central America to the US. After eight years of living without their mother and brother, who made the treacherous trip eight years ago, they decided to make the trip to reunite with family in Chicago.
But this trip is even more treacherous than the one Maria’s mother made. The adult who was hired to accompany Maria and her brother turned out to be a criminal, so they were forced to travel on their own alongside countless other teens.

After leaving in late winter, we learned that they successfully crossed the border in early spring and are now being held in a government facility for teens in Texas. As soon as the extensive paperwork is completed, they will be joining their mother and brother here in Chicago.

I’ve seen a picture of Maria and her brother. Maria is petite, and it takes my breath away when I think of her on this journey. I find myself waking up early in the morning afraid for her—so I turn my fear into prayer. I ask God to protect her, to comfort her, and give her the strength she needs to make the final trek of this journey and safely be reunited with her mother and brother after eight years of being apart.

And as I pray, I tenderly tuck my love into every stitch. The yarn I have chosen for her is a soft and multi-colored—pink, purple, green and blue. Plus it has sparkles.

I can’t wait to give them to her.

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Care to take part in Lucille’s Zoom series?

Just click on this image from Lucille’s Zoom poster, below, and you will see a full PDF of this handbill, which you can download, print, share with friends or post where friends will see it. She began this series on September 14, but you could join her group in its October session.

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Experts, caregivers point to potential solutions at inaugural forum

First event in Southeast Michigan from local journalism collaborative

A program at Detroit’s Hannan Center that provides day care for adults with dementia, offering a needed break for their caregivers, was one of the projects discussed by panelists at a public forum held Thursday on issues facing caregivers and possible solutions for them. Courtesy of Detroit Public Television

By Lindsay M. McCoy

Paula Duren, a Detroit-based psychologist, is one of an increasing number of caregivers of elderly adults who felt overwhelmed by the task of caring for aging parents, both of whom suffered from dementia.

“There were moments that felt like you didn’t even know what to do,” Duren said. “It brings about a helplessness.”

Duren was a panelist at a recent virtual forum hosted by the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative, a group of news, community and academic organizations that cover chronic problems with a solutions-focused lens, and Strides for Seniors, an annual month-long event series focused on Detroit’s senior centers.

The event, presented by collaborative members Detroit Public Television and Urban Aging News, featured journalists, caregiving experts, and community members who have served as caregivers for their loved ones.

The number of unpaid family caregivers has been rising in the United States, up from 43.5 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020, according to a recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute. The causes are numerous—from the aging of the Baby Boomer generation to a shortage of paid family caregivers. But despite formidable challenges, panelists discussed potential solutions being attempted across the United States.

After her experience, Duren founded Universal Dementia Caregivers. The non-profit organization offers support and education to those affected by dementia-related issues through services such as family mediation, legal guidance and workshops on caretaking skills and self-management.

“One of the things we do is invite attorneys in so people can ask their questions,” Duren said. Family caregivers “never think about the fact that (they) might need a power of attorney or a will might need to be established.”

Paid caregiver, funding shortage

The strain of caregiving isn’t unique to family caregivers; professional caregivers are also struggling.

“It’s a job that many spoke … about feeling very underappreciated,” said Sarah Rahal, a reporter for The Detroit News, during the event.

Paid caregivers’ turn over at a rate of 82 percent, and the workforce is currently in need of 34,000 more professional care workers, she said. This is a situation that is “expected to get much worse. There are thousands in Michigan who are in desperate need,” Rahal said.

One solution is dedicating more money toward paying caregivers—raises for paid caregivers as well as funding for the millions of unpaid caregivers.

The recent Biden administration infrastructure proposal originally included funding for increased caregiver pay, but that provision was left out of the deal struck this summer between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators.

Billions of dollars were proposed to go to expanding access to long-term care services in the home rather than receiving care at institutions, and the second priority would be to make caregiving jobs worth having, said Michael Kilian, editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Professional caregiving jobs “don’t pay well and… are very difficult,” Kilian said.

But Biden’s proposal did not include similar funding for unpaid family caregivers. The AARP has found that unpaid caregivers pay on average more than $7,000 a year out of pocket caring for loved ones.

According to Madeleine O’Neill, a reporter with the USA Today Network, there is currently a proposal in Washington that would provide unpaid family caregivers a tax credit up to $5,000 and allow Medicaid to cover more home-based services.

This proposal, if passed, “would be transformational for family caregivers in a sense that family caregivers might actually be able to access professional care for their loved ones and return to the workforce,” O’Neill said.

Needing a break

In addition to financial stress, caregivers also cope with physical and emotional strain.

For instance, Rahal pointed to the difficulty of the work itself, stating that caregivers are injured at a higher rate than even truck drivers in the United States.

Duren, the Detroit psychologist, says caregivers will neglect self-care when they put their loved ones first.

The Hannan Center, a senior center in Detroit, offers respite care in the community through a program called Daybreak. This respite care service allows caregivers a break at affordable rates, sometimes as low as $5 per hour.

“Sometimes it’s just a few hours, sometimes it could be five days a week,” said Vincent Tilford, the center’s executive director. “It helps to improve that relationship between the care partner and the person that they are caring for.”

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Care to Learn More?

The full public forum can be viewed on DPTV’s website. The interstate collaborative plans to continue engaging the community on solutions for caregivers through events and reporting.

Follow the collaborative’s reporting at nymisojo.com and email story ideas to Project Director Karen Magnuson at [email protected].

Members of the news collaborative in New York include the Democrat and Chronicle, Minority Reporter, La Voz, WXXI and News10NBC in Rochester, and WGRZ, The Buffalo News, the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal and WBFO in the Buffalo area. Community partners include Rochester Institute of Technology’s MAGIC Center.

Members of the news collaborative in Michigan include Bridge Michigan, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Public Television, Detour Detroit, Hometown Life, Michigan Radio, The Detroit News, Livingston Daily, Macomb Daily, The Oakland Press, Tostada Magazine and Urban Aging News. Four news organizations represented by New Michigan Media are also involved: The Arab American News, Latino Press, Michigan Korean Weekly and The Detroit Jewish News. Community partners include Front Edge Publishing, Michigan State University, Just Ask Talk Show, and Wayne State University.

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And a special thanks to Lindsay McCoy, an MSU journalism graduate student who covered the forum for the collaborative.

Lucille Sider on spiritual resiliency in the midst of trauma: Taking on cancer ‘this step, each step’

Photo courtesy of Emily Kuhn via Wikimedia Commons.

Consider Meeting Lucille Online

Her Zoom series starts September 14, 2021

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. The weekly series of columns so far:

Then, if you are interested in taking part in Lucille Sider’s online conversation with readers, which begins Sept. 14, 2021, please look at the information at the end of this story.

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Taking on cancer ‘this step, each step’

By LUCILLE SIDER
Author and Contributing Columnist

I had lived in Chicago for four years—such good years. My dear friend Frank lived one floor above me in our building in Hyde Park. The University of Chicago, seminaries and museums were in the neighborhood. Plus, we lived just three blocks from Lake Michigan and we delighted in the ever-changing water from our own apartments.

Frank and I meditated twice a day. We met monthly with a meditation group and these people became like family.

Frank was always reading theology and we had marvelous discussions about his favorite theologians.  In 2019 one of these was Meister Eckhart, a German from the 13th century. In late July, he and a friend, went to Germany for a week-long conference on Eckhart.

Three days after they arrived home I treated Frank to our favorite Italian restaurant and it was there that I realized something was wrong. We were chatting away about a friend whose father had died. I mentioned that we were at the funeral. Frank had no memory about the funeral and was somewhat irritated with what I was saying. Frank does not get irritated quickly so this was out of character.  He then mentioned the car assuming it was parked in the lot near the restaurant. The reality was that we had not driven the car. It took some persuading before he was willing to walk home. Home was only two blocks away but he was not convinced that we had not driven until he saw the car in the parking lot.

Frank’s memory continued to deteriorate over the next week. He was admitted to The University of Chicago Hospital and was given a wide variety of tests. After three months it was determined that he had a form of central nervous system cancer.

For it, Frank received a stem cell transplant. This is a long and difficult process and I was shocked when I asked his doctor how effective this treatment is. He responded that this would give Frank about a 20-to-30-percent better chance of surviving.  I was stunned.  I assumed it would be at least 50 percent or more.  While I knew that his form of cancer is very serious, it was not until the doctor referred to the low survival rate that I became terrified.

Frank was a perfect patient. His faith was strong. Many days when I would visit, he would say, “I feel God’s presence. It is so strong.” Frank was very much at peace. But I was not. I had moved to Chicago to be near him and I could not imagine my life without him.

My own mental health started to slide. I lost confidence in myself and was not able to write stories, which I had loved to do. I felt exhausted even though I was getting eight hours of sleep. I travelled to Philadelphia to be near my brother and his wife but their loving care did nothing to stop the depression. When I returned home and visited my psychiatrist I was hospitalized immediately. It took seven weeks in the hospital before I could stabilize and return home.

The central psychological question was: Could I live without Frank?

If he dies, would I be able to carry on? Would I move to Washington DC to be near my son Soren?

It is then that the poem that I had written eight years ago began to speak to me on a very deep level. Back then, I had to let go of the fear of losing my house once again. Now, I must let go of my beloved friend and place my hope in God alone.

These lines once again guided me. “Oh Lord, please give me the grace to hold lightly any person and to open my heart to God’s abounding love and abiding rest and be free.”

Frank has now been free of cancer for over a year. He receives an MRI twice a year. We both hold our breath as we await the results. It seems that I agonize over this more than he does. In some ways, his faith is stronger than mine. He believes he will live as long as God has some purpose for him. And it is clear to him that at the moment he has purpose in a number of ways. He is organist at Montgomery Place, a home for retired people. He is a spiritual director and it is clear that his wisdom is powerful in guiding his counselees.

I receive support from several close friends as well as from a psychologist and psychiatrist. My faith is stronger than ever. When I begin to falter I return to spiritual practices I developed with Frank.

One is a walking meditation. It is so simple. I simply walk slowly and repeat these words:

This step, each step, right here, right now.
This step, each step, right here, right now.

The past is behind and the future has not arrived.  Thus these words:

This step, each step, right here, right now.

And finally, the little chant Frank and I composed many years ago, is as powerful now as it was then:

Let it come, let it go,
Let it come, let it flow,
All is well.

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Look for the next part in Lucille’s series in our September 20, 2021, issue of ReadTheSpirit magazine.

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Care to take part in Lucille’s September 14, 2021, Zoom?

Just click on this image from Lucille’s Zoom poster, below, and you will see a full PDF of this handbill, which you can download, print, share with friends or post where friends will see it.

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Lucille Sider on spiritual resiliency after trauma: ‘All manner of things shall be well’

What do you see in this photo of a stream in autumn? The fallen leaves? The waters of uncertain depth? Or do you see stepping stones?

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Share These Stories of Resilience, Now

THEN, PLEASE MEET THE AUTHOR IN SEPTEMBER

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lucille Sider already has inspired readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma, every week in neighborhoods everywhere. This weekly series of columns began on August 23 with a first story, The Perfect House. This second column builds on that first one. Please, share these column with friends via email or social media (or print out a copy to share using the convenient “print friendly” button at the end of the story). Then, if you are interested in taking part in Lucille Sider’s online conversation with readers in September 2021, please look at the information at the end of this story.

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‘All Manner of Things Shall Be Well’

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Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

By LUCILLE SIDER
Author and Contributing Columnist

For two years my perfect house brought deep joy.

Visitors poured in. That first summer I invited my nieces for a week-end. Two came from Ontario, Canada, and two from Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania nieces brought beautiful toddler boys and we all loved watching them splash by the fountain.

We had a lot of fun and a lot of deep sharing. Four of us had been sexually abused by my brother-in-law, Edmond. The niece who was not abused just shook her head appalled but grateful that he had not reached her. We prayed together and felt so upheld by each other.

My son and his wife came from Washington, DC, and that first Christmas opening gifts in the living room in front of the fireplace was heaven. My cat PJ was on every lap taking in all the love he could find. He had been a gift from my son and daughter-in-law when I moved into the house.

My brother and his wife who had master-minded the rebuilding after a major flood came to visit and always helped with some house project. And always, we went to Lowe’s and found just what we needed.

I loved to show off my garden, especially to my female friends from church. While we were playing croquet in my back yard, I delighted in showing them the flowers: azaleas, petunias, geraniums, impatiens and on and on.

In fact, that first year I could not bear to let my flowers die so I just started potting them and carrying them into my house. Every window was dressed with the flowers. I later counted and found that I had 91 plants in the house.

Just one small area of my indoor garden!

I also had a plant infirmary where I could give them extra TLC with a large grow light. That year I had countless tea parties in my beautiful living room garden.

I was enjoying all of my relationships with family and long-time friends. One of those friends was Frank, who I had met in our 30s when he was the pastor of a church in Chicago and I was the church’s pastoral counselor. We formed a small spirituality group with some other friends and we remained in touch even as we found ourselves moving around the country.

My friend Frank had by this time moved to Pennsylvania from Chicago. Now we were only three hours away from each other and we were back and forth often. He loved to sit on my deck surrounded by flowers. That first fall I had 15 mums and, coupled with my water fountain, the setting was idyllic. We chatted and we meditated as we do when we’re together.

Frank had started a meditation group in Pennsylvania and I was always invited to participate. I went as often as possible. The time that affected me most profoundly was when the group was meditating silently in a creek.

I’ll never forget that day. The weather was perfect. About 75 degrees with a slight wind. Birds were singing their hearts out and the little fish seemed so happy as they swam around me.

I was truly struggling at that point because of some concerns that had arisen in my family. For a while I could find no peace. But after about 20 minutes, my worries just seemed to float away in the ripples of water.

Simple phrases ran through my mind and eased my soul: “Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. “

When the meditation was over, I told Frank about my experience.

“All shall be well,” he said, telling me that he was drawing on Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic whose book, Revelations of Divine Lovehas become popular once again.

Her famous verse was: “All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”

On the way home I repeated over and over again the words that spoke so deeply to me: Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. All is well.

The next day I composed a simple tune and wrote it down. I called Frank and sang it to him.

“Absolutely wonderful,” he said.

I have been singing that little chant ever since. And both Frank and I have taught it to many people.

Life seemed perfect for a long time, even after the drawn-out trauma of the flood, but eventually I began to feel lonely. I longed to have a house mate. The days when darkness started to descend at 4 pm became frightening.

I was in psychotherapy and of course I discussed my loneliness with my therapist. We scoured our minds for people I might invite to live with me. I was open to having either a woman or a man. My friend Frank was back in Chicago by this time. But we kept very close contact.

We chatted about living in the same retirement home someday. Frank would organize hymn sings. He would play the piano and I would lead the singing. My parents had done this in later years and I so admired it.

“Doing all of that with Frank would be perfect,” I said to my therapist, “If only I could find someone like Frank.”

My therapist immediately replied, “He is one in a million.”

So I left the office discouraged, thinking I would never find a friend like Frank. But on my way home this thought came to me: If he is one in a million, you better go and live near him. When I got home, I immediately called him and he responded, “I would love to have you come to Chicago. We can get you an apartment in my building.”

I had lived and worked in Chicago for 26 years so it felt like this would be a homecoming of sorts. I discussed this with my son, my bother and many friends. We all worried that I would miss my beautiful home in Binghamton so much that I could not adjust again to city life.

So what I decided to do was rent my house for a year. Then I could come back if that felt right. During that year I missed my gardens a great deal—both my outside garden and inside garden. But when the feelings were intense all I had to do was sing, “Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. All is well.”

My apartment in Chicago was in the same building as Frank’s. It had huge windows with a southern exposure and immediately I started filling those windows with plants. I mean—lots of plants. About 60 in all. Frank and I began to meditate together twice a day. We ate meals together at least once a day. We started a meditation group with six other people and they became so foundational to my spirituality and later to our friendship. My beloved friend Alyce lived in the city and we spent such wonderful times together. At times I had doubts about selling my house. Of course I would take these to my therapist. But what guided me more than anything was the chant.

“Let it come, let it go, Let if come, let it flow, All is well.”

I later came to realize that the earlier poem I composed about my house has the same theme. It is about letting go and daring to trust in God. The last three stanzas have spoken to me so deeply:

Oh Lord,
Please give me the grace
To own my house
But not let it own me.
To love my house
But hold it loosely.

Oh Lord,
Please give me the grace
To hold lightly
Any place or person
Any thought or feeling.

Oh Lord, please give me the grace
To open my heart
To your abounding love
And abiding rest
And be free!

And Lord,
Please bless my house.

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Look for the next part in Lucille’s series fin our September 6, 2021, issue of ReadTheSpirit magazine.

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Care to take part in Lucille’s September 2021 Zoom?

Just click on this image from Lucille’s Zoom poster, below, and you will see a full PDF of this handbill, which you can download, print, share with friends or post where friends will see it.

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Parenting: Pushing back on the pressures from youth sports

Click this image from the Christian Science Monitor to read Martin Davis’s entire story.

In our We Are Caregiving section, we publish a wide array of stories that are helpful to America’s millions of caregivers, including parents.

This week we are recommending a story for parents by journalist Martin Davis, who specializes in covering the deeper personal dynamics of sports. One of Davis’s stories appears in the current issue of the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), headlined: All play, no fun: Pushing back on the pressures of youth sports.

The CSM editor’s note explains Why We Wrote This: “Amid increasing pressure to treat youth sports like a career, some families and educators are pushing back–demanding playtime be fun again, and offering solutions to make it equitable and affordable.”

Davis reports on “a growing movement to push back on a system that expects children and their parents to treat game time like a career with adult demands and expectations.”

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Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from journalist Martin Davis? Right now, Martin and our editors are completing a book filled with uplifting stories about high school coaches and players nationwide—men and women, black and white, famous and unsung heroes alike.

His book will appear soon in our series of 30 Days With under the title: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website, MartinDavisAuthor.com, which describes his work as an author and editor, as well as his background as a veteran journalist for national publications.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns and podcasts. You’ll be glad you did!

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Pour a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy this conversation on Aging Today with Mark Turnbull and David Crumm

Let’s talk about ways to help our caregivers

This podcast may inspire your community

All of us are aging. Right now, more than 50 million Americans are serving everyday as unpaid caregivers for their loved ones.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Recently, Front Edge Publishing Editor David Crumm talked with podcaster Mark Turnbull about the many ways we can help our family and friends with these challenges. Here’s how Mark starts the podcast:

As we always do, we want to thank caregivers scattered all over the nation. The theme of our show is about aging with all the many options that are placed before us—on your terms. That’s the key—on your terms. We started this podcast four years ago because we felt there was a huge void about the aging process—and it doesn’t matter about your chronological age. This podcast is all about bringing you experts who can help us to navigate the process of aging.

We agree heartily with Mark’s theme here at Front Edge Publishing, which also produces this ReadTheSpirit.com online magazine each week. That’s why our writers focused on strength-based solutions in our new book, Now What? There are chapters of the books that help families solve common problems—as well as chapters that celebrate the new potential and possibilities that we can discover in our later years.

As we age, we encounter challenges—and, if we are looking, we also can discover many gifts.

A TIP FOR LISTENERS: We hope you will hear something in this podcast that will make you smile and nod along with us. You may find a section or two of this podcast that you would like to replay for friends in a class or small group in your community or congregation. The podcast interface can easily be set to start playing at any point in the conversation.

 

Help Us Save Lives by Sharing this Vaccination Advice, including a Lesson from Benjamin Franklin

By BENJAMIN PRATT
Contributing Columnist

JULY 26, 2021—Millions of us are trying to convince friends and neighbors to take the COVID pandemic seriously—and that includes some advice from my own United Methodist denomination as well as some wisdom I’ve gleaned from good old Benjamin Franklin.

Perhaps sharing this column via social media or email might help you convince one more person to take steps that will save lives.

Right now, the extremely transmissible Delta Variant of the coronavirus now makes up more than 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with nearly all deaths occurring in unvaccinated people. Most regions of the country are seeing new waves of infection rising with each passing week.

Many faith groups are stepping up the promotion of vaccinations among adults and emphasizing special efforts to protect children under age 12. My own Virginia United Methodist Conference is giving very specific directives to local congregations. They are as follows:

• Rescheduling re-opening of ministries involving children under the age of 12 or revisiting our mitigation plans.
• Requiring all students, volunteers, staff and visitors to wear a mask over their nose and mouth. According to the CDC guidelines a child over 2 years old should wear a mask.
• Strongly recommend that volunteers be fully vaccinated, and implement screening for each volunteer, before any gatherings.
• Try to use outdoor spaces as much as possible.
• We recommend limiting the consuming of snacks during any event. Individually packed snacks may be shared, after the event, for consumption at home.

To stop the spread of the Delta Variant and avoid the risk of future variants, it is essential that we have everyone vaccinated! Churches have a unique role to help and assist the community in inviting unvaccinated members to receive a vaccine.

We urge churches to encourage vaccination and to protect the unvaccinated population by continuing mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing.

We have also received advice and wisdom from a grieving Founding Father. Benjamin Franklin wrote the following in his Autobiography, “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of 4 years old, by smallpox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret, that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

This is footnoted as follows: “Vaccination was not at this time known. By inoculation the smallpox poison was introduced into the arm, and produced a milder form of the disease.”

As a father, grandfather and hopefully a great grandfather, I am deeply grateful when I learn that our faith communities take specific actions to mitigate the plague confronting all of us. I’m also deeply touched to learn of the personal pain and wisdom of one of our founding fathers.

Care to read more?

There’s an in-depth story about Franklin and the smallpox epidemic in Forbes magazine.